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Judge rules against Duncan

Sat., Feb. 16, 2008

Jurors can consider incriminating statements convicted murderer Joseph Duncan made to FBI agents as they decide whether he should be executed for his crimes, a federal judge has ruled.

U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge on Thursday ruled that Duncan understood and waived his rights when he spoke to FBI agents at the Kootenai County Jail in July 2005 about crimes he committed against Dylan and Shasta Groene, as well as the murders of missing children in the Seattle area and Southern California.

The judge also rejected a fourth attempt by Duncan’s attorneys to delay the penalty phase of the case against Duncan, who pleaded guilty to kidnapping and molesting both children, then killing Dylan.

Duncan earlier pleaded guilty in Kootenai County to the May 2005 murders of the children’s 13-year-old brother, Slade, their mother, Brenda Matthews Groene, and her fiancé, Mark McKenzie.

He is serving a life sentence in prison for kidnapping charges related to the triple murder.

The penalty phase of the federal case against Duncan is set to begin April 14 in Boise. Lodge this week ruled against a request by Duncan’s attorneys to delay proceedings until September.

“The interests in a speedy trial does not only belong to the Defendant, but also to the public who has an interest in a speedy resolution of cases,” Lodge wrote.

The judge rejected several motions this week in a hearing in Boise, including an attempt by Duncan’s attorneys to have the death sentence eliminated as punishment for one charge against Duncan.

That count of the federal indictment charges Duncan with sexual exploitation of a child resulting in death.

Duncan’s attorney’s said Dylan Groene’s murder and the videotaping of sexual acts involving the boy were “two discrete events that occurred at different times and not in the same location.”

For that reason, the defense maintained the death penalty wouldn’t apply.

Lodge also denied a request by Duncan’s attorneys for information the prosecution may have about prospective jurors, including jurors’ criminal histories and voting preferences.

The defense argued that not having that information would put them at a disadvantage during jury selection.

Several motions are still being considered by the judge.

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